Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

I’m Sorry

I'm sorry“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi wasn’t the first to express it and he certainly won’t be the last. And to be honest, I understand his sentiments.

“Christians aren’t perfect, we’re just saved.” It’s a popular bumper sticker and while it is true it is far too often used as an excuse for behaving badly.

Sometimes Christians can be rude and selfish and greedy… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can walk right past others and not even give them the time of day, as if they don’t even exist… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can look down their nose at others and judge them for their sins while ignoring their own sins… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can be so opinionated about a subject that they won’t even listen to someone with a differing opinion… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians gossip about others… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act one way at Church and a different way at work or at school… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act like they have life all figured out and that their life is perfect even when they don’t and it isn’t… I’m sorry.

I’ve lived half of a century (now I feel old!) and in that time I’ve served four different churches and been involved with many, many others. This lack of consistent living is widespread and common.

I’m sure you can add to this list but you get the idea. And since I’m being honest I will admit that I’m sometimes guilty of these same things.

Being a Christian is more than wearing a title, professing certain beliefs, sitting in a church service for one hour a week and following a formula to have a ticket stamped for life beyond this life. It means actively following Jesus to become like Him. It means learning to think and believe and feel and act like Jesus more and more. It means loving God and others every moment of every day.

We won’t get it right all the time; but that’s no excuse for not giving ourselves to the journey of doing life with God and learning to love like Jesus. And when we get it wrong we need to own it and apologize for it.

Note to my Christian friends: If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but they…” Stop right there! Every person will one day stand before God to give an account of their life and their actions. NO ONE will be able to excuse their behavior by saying, “Yeah, but they…” We will be responsible for ourselves then so we might as well start being responsible for ourselves now.

One last confession: If my hope were in other Christians I would have given up on the Church and Christianity a long time ago. Some of my greatest blessings have come from other believers but so have some of my greatest hurts.

My hope rests in Christ Jesus alone! He is the only one who makes this messy, imperfect journey worthwhile.

Who is your hope in?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Accountability, Christ, Christianity, Church, Confession, God, Hope, involvement with the church, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Repentance, Sin

Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) by Chris Tomlin

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Advent, Christmas, Divine presence, Emmanuel, God, Jesus, Music Video, Religion and Spirituality

Why candles in the window at Christmas?

candle in windowThe practice of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. The historical background of this custom is quite interesting.

When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no churches. Priests hid in forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night.

Every Irish family longed for at least one chance during their lifetime to be visited by a priest at Christmas to celebrate the Divine sacrifice during Holy Night. Many hope and prayed for this all through the year.

When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity would know they were welcome and were guided to their home through the dark night. Silently he entered through the unlatched door and was received by the faithful who were grateful that their home was used to worship the birth of Christ Jesus.

To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people used to explain: “We burn the candles and keep the doors unlocked, that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, will find their way to our home and be welcomed with open doors and open hearts.” The English authorities, finding this Irish “superstition” harmless, did not bother to suppress it.

Candles or not the choice is ours. God’s Spirit resides in us and pausing to be aware of that makes any moment or any location sacred.

question mark orangeIn the midst of another busy holiday season are we making room for Jesus to enter more deeply into our hearts?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Advent, Christmas, Divine presence, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Don’t put Jesus first this year!*

Here’s my best advice as we head into a new year.

Don’t put Jesus first this year!

No – that’s not a typo and yes – I’m serious. But before you write me off as having lost my mind please hear me out.

It’s fairly common, at the start of a new year, to pause and evaluate the past year. This usually leads us to a renewed commitment to follow after Jesus and it tends to look like this:

1.  God/Jesus
2.  Family
3.  Vocation/work

The problem is that a list like this tends to compartmentalize life in a way that doesn’t fit neatly into a real, ordinary day.

I take calls from my family when I’m at the office and I occasionally do office stuff when I’m home with the family. And separate time alone with God doesn’t always work first thing in the morning when an urgent phone call wakes me up and I have to attend to something related to work or a family member.

The neat and tidy list of 1, 2, 3 seldom fits into an ordinary day and tends to take Jesus out of those places that we most need Him!

As Steven Furtick puts it: “You end up removing Jesus from where you spend the majority of your time and putting Him on an island by Himself. The biggest island maybe, but an island nonetheless.”

Colossians 1:15-20 describes how Christ Jesus is supreme. It spells out how everything - both visible and invisible - was created through Him and for Him. How everything was reconciled through Him and how all of creation is held together by Him and in Him.

Jesus is supreme because He is at the center of everything!

So instead of putting Jesus first, let’s make Him the center of everything in our lives.

Not Jesus first and then my marriage but Jesus in the center of my marriage! Not Jesus first and then my kids but Jesus in the center of my kids! Not Jesus first and then my vocation but Jesus in the center of my work!

What would it look like for Jesus to be at the center of every aspect of our lives?

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* The seed idea for this blog came from Steven Furtick

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Filed under Choices, Commitment, Discipleship, Family, God's Will, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Marriage, New Years, Priorities, Work

Thanksgiving quotables worth pondering

Sure it’s another Thanksgiving, but are we really thankful? May these quotes stir your heart and deepen your sense of gratitude as they did mine!

“You can’t be grateful for something you feel entitled to.”  ~ Steven Furtick

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world: It is not he who prays most or fasts most, it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” ~ William Law

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ The Apostle Paul – I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for sharing the journey!

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Filed under Contentment, Gratitude, Thankfulness

How God Grades

I was greatly encouraged by what you’re about to read; hope you are as well!

“If God grades on the curve, I’m probably between a C+ and a B-.”

Here’s the truth. God doesn’t grade on a curve. He sees you as you really are. He knows your words and actions, your true motives, and the intentions behind everything you do and think. Even more, He measures your actions, words, and motives against His standards, which reflect His perfect righteousness. Jesus gave us a glimpse of God’s perfect standards when He said if you have been angry with someone, you are just as guilty as one who committed murder (see Matthew 5:21–22). If you have failed to love your neighbor in the same manner and degree that you love yourself, then by the standard of God’s love, you have not loved your neighbor.

… But the great news is that He loves you and me anyway! He loves us so much that He has made the ultimate sacrifice (the death of His Son) to bring you and me into a miraculous, love-drenched, eternal relationship with Him.
~ Excerpted from The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” ~ Romans 8:1-2

Give God your best and trust Him to fill in the gaps with His grace and love!

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Filed under Encouragement, Grace, Love of God, Trusting God

The Real Jesus

We all know who Jesus is. Right?

We preach and teach about His will and His ways; tell His stories by heart; celebrate Him in worship; and serve Him with enthusiasm. Yet underneath it all (if we are truly candid), there is a gnawing sense that there should be something…well, more to this relationship.

Why is it that He often feels so far away? The distance between knowing Him and knowing about Him is vast. And the space between these two experiences separates the spectators from intimate participants.

Jesus intends for you to experience the pleasure and reassuring peace of His presence at the core of your life. He wants to be more than just another volume in your encyclopedia of biblical facts. He didn’t die for you to simply strike a deal guaranteeing heaven. He died for you to make you His own and to grant you the unspeakable privilege of experiencing Him personally.
~ Excerpted from Simply Jesus and You by Joseph M. Stowell

Are you satisfied with simply knowing about Jesus or are you pursuing an intimate relationship with Him?

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Filed under Christianity, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus

What might the Holy Spirit accomplish…?

We often think, at least I do, that if we were different people in different circumstances with different resources… THEN God could use us to accomplish something special for His kingdom. But that is a lie!

To participate in something supernatural requires resources that are supernatural. And the only way that God’s Spirit can do something in and through us that is bigger than us requires that we surrender.

“Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. There are very few crises in life; the great crisis is the surrender of the will.” ~ Oswald Chambers

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“Full consecration may be in one sense the act of a moment and in another the work of a lifetime. It must be complete to be real, and yet – if real – it is always incomplete. Consecration is a point of rest and yet a perpetual progression.” ~ Frances R. Havergal

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“Dear Lord, You be the needle and I be the thread. You go first, and I will follow wherever You may lead.” ~ Congolese believer

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“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave…” ~ Philippians 2:5-7

What might the Holy Spirit accomplish in us and through us today were we to live fully surrendered?

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Surrender

Still more to do!

It’s been a long and busy and tiring and productive week! We are working on some long overdue projects at the house and hired my nephew Joel from Michigan to come help for the week. Among the things we got done were:

  • Second-story windows wrapped in aluminum and caulked.
  • Porch roof shingled.
  • Porch beam prepared for soffit.
  • A window replaced and siding rehung.
  • Brickmold around the deck door replaced.
  • Ran some new wiring.
  • Laundry Room (LR) mudded, sanded and painted.
  • Cabinets installed in the LR.
  • Underlayment board and ceramic tile put down in the LR.

Whew! We worked several evenings and pushed our bodies well beyond the comfort zone. Susan and I are delighted at all that has gotten done this week – thanks in large part to Joel; but there is still more to do.

The same is true in God’s kingdom work here on earth. What we did last year or last month or last week to further God’s agenda of loving Him and loving others is great! But there is still more to do! After offering an impressive list of what he had already done, Paul says this:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

I press on! I keep going! I persist in what God has for me to do! I give myself to something bigger than myself. I empty myself giving every last ounce of energy and effort. I continue to envision what else might be possible.f

It’s a new day and there is still more to do!

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Filed under Determination, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Loving God, Loving others

Good entertainment, but a faulty premise

Our oldest, Eli, is working this summer at Anderson University where he’ll be a junior next year. We are very grateful for the job but don’t get to see him as often as we’d like. But he got to come home for five whole days over the 4th of July weekend!

One of my favorite things about Eli coming home is that we share a love of movies and catch each other up on what we’ve seen or want to see. This time home we watched Unknown. If you haven’t watched it but plan to you might want to skip the remainder of this blog.

In short, a doctor just arriving in Germany is in a freak accident and hits his head. When we wakes up 4 days later he has no identification and his wife does not know him. What ensues is a difficult quest to find himself and the truth.

In the end we learn that he is a master spy on a very covert mission. But when he finally discovers, or remembers, all of this he is riddled with guilt and shame. The same thing happens in the Bourne Identity trilogy – also good flicks!

It’s a very engaging story with lots of action and suspense. I enjoyed it very much but something troubles me. Why is it that a simple bump on the head seems to reset a default button and a trained assassin becomes a selfless individual concerned with making everything right?

If that is all it takes then perhaps our penal system should take note and start thumping prisoners on the head. To be clear, that was sarcasm. I do not believe such a premise nor do I advocate abuse of prisoners.

This sort of storyline makes for engaging entertainment but it is based on the flawed premise that we are all basically good at heart. That’s popular humanistic thinking, but God’s word paints a different picture.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23

We are not all basically good in nature but rather sinful and rebellious towards our Creator. We are not naturally inclined towards God’s will but our own. Our default is selfish, not selfless.

I’m not trying to browbeat or demean mankind. We are all made in the image of God which gives every human being immense value. But until we recognize our own propensity towards sin we will never come to the real solution which is new life in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Am I making mountains out of mole hills? I don’t think so. The basic premise of Unknown is everywhere today. It’s so subtle that we don’t even recognize it. Such thinking only makes it more difficult for us to come to God in humility and repentance.

Only God can transform darkened hearts to bring new life and teach us how to love as He loves!

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Filed under Christianity, God's Will, Humility, Morphing, Sin